Letter to the AZA

Ms. Kris Vehrs
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
8403 Colesville Rd., Suite 710
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Ms. Vehrs:

First, I thank the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for having submitted a comment opposing the issuance of an export permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Yerkes) to send eight—now seven, as Abby recently died at Yerkes—retired laboratory chimpanzees overseas to Wingham Wildlife Park, an unaccredited zoo in the United Kingdom.

I am writing to inform you that yesterday evening, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the federal district court in D.C. issued her ruling concerning our challenge to the export permit. In summary, we were unable to prevail not because the case lacked merit, but rather because of the legal technicality of standing, i.e., she found that none of the Plaintiffs had the requisite “injury” to pursue the case.

However, in her summary judgement decision, Judge Jackson went to great lengths to recognize the merits of our case. In particular, we bring to your attention pages 55–58 in the attached copy of her decision, in which she stated: “This Court considers doubtful FWS’s insistence that, when Congress penned Section 10(a) [the Endangered Species Act] it intended to authorize the agency to ‘sell’ its permits in this fashion so long as the affected species might (as a whole) be conceived of as benefitting from the exchange.”

We are aware that Dan Ashe, former USFWS Director will soon become the CEO and President of the AZA. We are deeply concerned about the potential influence he will have to continue actions such as those that occurred under his jurisdiction while serving at the USFWS. The Agency is only as strong as its leaders. Judge Jackson’s comments are as much an indictment of Mr. Ashe as they are of the agency as a whole.

We are hoping that the AZA will seriously consider our request to ask Mr. Ashe, as he exits USFWS, to acknowledge, as he did when the agency decided to finally uplist captive chimpanzees to endangered status, that here too, the issuance of an expert permit under the agency’s “pay to play” scheme has been a “mistake.” In addition, given the Court’s opinion casting serious doubt on the legality of USFWS’ decision, and the fact that there are several U.S. sanctuaries ready and willing to provide homes to these seven chimpanzees, we implore you to request that Mr. Ashe officially withdraw the export permit and commit to not participating in allowing the export of any other U.S. chimpanzees from U.S. labs to any foreign facilities.

NEAVS and its coalition of chimpanzee experts and sanctuaries, as well as the thousands of individuals and conservation organizations and individual experts who have taken a strong opposition to this permit decision, look forward to your response. In the attached full judgment, we have highlighted key portions summarizing Judge Jackson’s standpoint on the legality of the permit. We thank you again for all you do to help all animals and, importantly, those endangered and threatened with extinction.


Respectfully yours,

Theodora Capaldo, Ed.D.

New England Anti-Vivisection Society
333 Washington Street Suite 850
Boston, MA 02108
617 523 6020

CC: Mr. Steve Olson, Mr. Rob Vernon, and Debborah Luke, Ph.D.

PDF version available.